What do corn tortillas and grits have in common? They’re both made from hominy. Made by soaking corn kernels in an alkali solution of lye or slaked lime to remove the hull and germ in a process called “nixtamalization,” hominy is sometimes called nixtamal. When the hull and germ are removed mechanically, medium-sized pellets, known as pearl hominy, are produced.
Hominy is available canned or dried and in white or yellow varieties, depending on the color of the corn kernel. Yellow hominy is the sweeter of the two. Canned hominy is fully cooked and ready to use, but dried hominy needs to be soaked in water for several hours and then simmered until cooked (the kernels will be soft and slightly chewy). Its texture makes hominy especially suitable in soups, stews and casseroles, and extra cooked kernels can be frozen to use later in recipes.
When ground, hominy becomes grits, a Southern U.S. breakfast and side-dish staple. Hominy grits come in fine, medium and coarse grinds. Supermarket hominy grits are sold in a variety of coarseness and in old-fashioned, quick and instant varieties, either plain or with added flavors such as butter, cheese and bacon.
Ground hominy also can be turned into masa, or Mexican dough used to make tortillas, arepas, tamales and other Latin and Central American dishes.
Nutrition Profile of Hominy
A half-cup of canned yellow hominy contains 58 calories, 2 grams of fiber, 276 milligrams sodium and about 1 gram each of protein and fat. A half cup of plain cooked hominy grits contains 76 calories, about 1½ grams of protein and 1 gram of fiber, and traces of sodium and fat. Hominy grits often are enriched with thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid and iron; vitamin D and calcium are added to some brands.
A half-cup of cooked hominy kernels counts as ½ cup of vegetables, according to MyPlate, and ½ cup of cooked hominy grits counts as 1 ounce from the grains group. Nixtamalization may cause some bran loss, but hominy can be considered a whole grain when this loss is kept to the absolute minimum, according to the Whole Grains Council.
Patients with corn allergies should avoid hominy. Plain hominy and hominy grits are acceptable in gluten-free diets, but it’s important to advise patients who shop at bulk stores to be cautious of cross-contamination from gluten-containing products. Low-sodium canned hominy is an option for patients on sodium-restricted diets.
Using Hominy in Foodservice
Hominy is a star ingredient in the hearty, spicy Hispanic soups posole and menudo. Posole is usually served as a main dish and features hominy, pork, dried chiles and cilantro. Menudo contains hominy, tripe, calf’s feet, green chiles and seasonings. Hominy also is used in chili, stews, casseroles, salads or as a side dish in place of potatoes.
To cook hominy grits, simmer in water or milk until thick. Serve as a hot breakfast cereal or a side dish for fish, poultry and meat. Or shape into cakes and fry. Dress up hominy grits with garlic and cheese or use as an ingredient in flapjacks and baked goods, such as breads and muffins.
Ready-to-use hominy is available in several case sizes: six, #10 cans; 12, 29-ounce cans; and 24, 15-ounce cans. Dry hominy comes in cases of 24 one-pound bags. Hominy grits come in five-pound bags, which is a whopping 125 servings.
Diane Quagliani, MBA, RDN, LDN, is president of Quagliani Communications, Inc., a nutrition communications firm in Western Springs, Ill.
Ecuadorian-inspired Breakfast Scramble
Developed by Liz Spittler
1 garlic clove, minced
⅛ teaspoon cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon ground cumin
⅛ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon Mexican oregano
¼ teaspoon paprika
½ cup chopped scallions including green ends
¼ cup diced yellow or white onion
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup hominy, drained and rinsed
¼ cup milk
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, minced
⅛ teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- Using a mortar and pestle, mash the garlic, cinnamon, cumin, allspice, oregano and paprika into a paste.
- Heat butter in a large, deep skillet and add scallions, onions and paste. Cook until onions begin to soften.
- Add hominy, stirring to coat well, and cook for about 1 minute.
- Add milk and let simmer until milk is absorbed, about 2 minutes.
- In a separate bowl, whisk eggs. Add to skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until eggs are fluffy.
- Sprinkle in pepper, cilantro and cheese.
- Store-bought recado rojo or achiote paste may be substituted for spice paste.
Serving Size: 6 ounces
Calories: 282; Total fat: 17g; Saturated fat: 8g; Cholesterol: 304mg; Sodium: 456mg; Carbohydrates: 19g; Fiber 3g; Sugars: 5g; Protein: 14g; Potassium: 283mg; Phosphorus: 263mg
Liz Spittler is executive managing editor of Food & Nutrition.